2018 BIG EAST TOURNAMENT
ST. JOHN’S RED STORM VS. XAVIER MUSKETEERS
Time: Noon ET
Watch Online: FOX Sports GO
It’s been a while since the Xavier Musketeers were the 1 seed in a conference tournament.
The year was 2011. The Musketeers had just capped off a 24-8 season, in which they bowled through the rest of the Atlantic-10. They went 15-1 in conference season, just edging out the likes of the Temple Owls (who went 14-2) and Richmond Spiders (they went 13-3). All three were tourney teams, by the by. Things did not, however, go so well for Tu Holloway, Jamel McLean and Kenny Frease and the rest of them. No, the rival Dayton Flyers clipped them 68-67. Luke Fabrizius played hero that day, as Fabrizius hit two free throws in the waning moments to sink the Musketeers.
There is no telling if the auspicious start to this article will mean that history will repeat itself on Thursday afternoon. What is true is that Xavier has an intriguing task ahead of them. They’ll be playing a de-facto road game when they meet the St. John’s Red Storm in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals.
These two are, obviously, no stranger to one another. Madison Square Garden will be the third venue that these two teams have played in this season. They met earlier at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati, Xavier’s home dwelling, and also Carnesecca Arena, St. John’s on-campus home setting. Both meetings had similar scripts: St. John’s would give Xavier fits, but in the end, the Musketeers triumphed. They won by six in the first game on January 17 and won by five in the next on January 30.
The Red Storm were certainly in their woes while that was going on, but they have certainly been a different team since the calendar turned to February. St. John’s is 6-3 in their last nine games, with wins over the Villanova Wildcats, Butler Bulldogs, Duke Blue Devils and Marquette Golden Eagles, to name a few. And yes, of course, the victory over the Georgetown Hoyas in the first round on Wednesday, too (and DePaul, yes).
Shamorie Ponds has been their driving force, and he played well in his return to action against the Hoyas. He scored 26 points on 14 shots in 36 minutes, and committed only one turnover. There’s another player that Xavier is going to have to account for, though. Make no mistake, Justin Simon is going to be one to watch. Simon put up a line of 16 points and 10 rebounds against the Hoyas, and added six assists as well. Simon has been playing under the radar for a while, but the bright lights of the Big East Tournament didn’t faze him one bit Wednesday night. A quick turnaround for him will make it fun to see what comes next.
You know the stars for Xavier, and you know by now who will need to show out. All-Big East selection Trevon Bluiett will likely be a force, and All-Freshman selection Naji Marshall will be one to watch, too. There’s J.P. Macura, Kerem Kanter and Quentin Goodin; there’s also Sean O’Mara and Kaiser Gates, to. Xavier won the Big East regular season championship for a reason. This team is deep, they shoot the ball and score at exceptional rates, and they are hard to handle when everything is clicking.
Whether St. John’s can catch them napping in this Noon showdown at MSG is yet to be seen. But this should no doubt be a fun way to start the day on Thursday.